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Small Look into a Huge Culture


Small Look into a Huge Culture

charles easley

"Most people look at a shoe and see a shoe, when I look at a shoe I see the design and inspiration that went into it."

"Most people look at a shoe and see a shoe, when I look at a shoe I see the design and inspiration that went into it."

We all have our own vice. A perversion of interest. A bad habit of a hobby. Something that we are drawn to, for better or worse. We look for other lecherous individuals that fancy the same carnal debasement. To not feel alone. To not feel alienated. We look for an avenue to be part of something bigger than ourselves.

I, for example, like shoes.

There is something about the sneakerhead culture that gets me going.  It’s the community that is driven by taking an object and putting it on a pedestal purely based on taste and aesthetic value. As of late we have seen the shoe game reach new heights. With fashion infused designs, we are now seeing this identity of shoe culture bleed over to a mass group who identify with an incredibly diverse number of lifestyles. But where do those people go to talk about their collection? Where do they go to trade, sell and gawk at others’ shoe-wins?

This past week we caught up with a dude who has been creating a community of sneaker savages for the past three years.

His name … Noah Cali.

He is a graphic designer that fell in love with sneakers before he could afford them. Like most people, he set goals. It was his goal to create revenue to cash in on the sneakers that would eventually fill his closet.

“I think it was the first time I held the Bred Spizike. The stores near me never had anything good in stock, the first time I held an actual Jordan in my hands I could tell the difference from the real deal and the shoes I had at home”

You could see a shift in the conversation as he explained with a smile, “It was the weight of the shoe; you could tell that it had quality unlike the shoes I had before. It was a whoaaaa moment". Sneakerheads are always looking for validation in products that they buy. They want them to be well made for the money they are asking for, and shoes are not cheap. “We want to know the shoe has creative value, we look at the old school SB collection by Nike, and see conceptual value in the Cheech and Chong’s with the scuffed toe” to add to that, he talks about Tinker (Tinker Hatfield, a designer of heroic status) and his creative concepts with fighter jets and the Air Jordan V’s. “You look at a Jordan and think it’s a cool shoe but when you know the design and where it came from it makes the shoe even better.” He continued “you can also look at the Jordan 14’s and see the Ferrari inspiration, it just makes the shoe better to know it was thought out, there is more to it.”

As Cali started his venture to collect shoes he found haven with groups on Facebook that shared similar interests. “I was part of a large group and all the shoes on the feed were not my size. You would have to sift through all the clutter to find your size, so I created a group with a friend/shoe enthusiast (shout out to Justin) and realized there were a lot of people who fit the same shoe and it took off from there.” Looking to create an exclusive size 9 - 9.5 shoe group, Noah started with around 3,000 members but swiftly moved to create a more curated group of elite patrons who were, as he put it, “legit.” When you’re talking thousands of dollars for shoes there has to be a form of structure to the group. “We have rules, you have to be checked and backed by two members of the group to even get in.” The group calls each other “fam” and that’s what they are: a relaxed, urban-influenced family. Spreading the country from New York to L.A. and even oversees, the feed on his group page is quick, witty banter that only suggests their comfort to openly roast one another. It’s not hate, and nothing feels spiteful. It’s a group of people that feel united under the umbrella of shoe culture.

And it’s awesome.

As the shoe game has progressed, we have seen a large jump in team collaborations. Shoes are being pushed out so fast that it’s difficult for them to always be conceptual. Sometimes it’s just a shoe. But the value of collaboration has sky rocketed and caught the attention of collectors across the world. The biggest in the game is Supreme. Supreme is a New York based company that has kept their brand extremely exclusive and damn near impossible to get. “It’s what they haven’t done” Cali explains “Supreme came up at the same time as many big brands that are available now on a mass scale, they (Supreme) kept being who they were and I think that goes well with what our community is.”

The exclusivity of the product is what drives the fan base. To “cop” a steal from a Supreme drop date is today’s holy grail of collaborations must haves, so much so that companies are battling computerized checkout robots called “bots.” “Companies are now delaying the time you can check out a product online to make sure bots are not being used.” That was short lived, bots are now built to wait the time needed to check out so the program views them as actual people rather than robot product hoarders. 

Indeed, we all have a vice. Even certain depraved Sneakerheads choose to dump on the community by using bots to cop drops.

The nerve! The horror!

The vice. The shoe.